Archive for the ‘John Craighead’ Category

ForeWord Reviews Now On-Line

May 28, 2016

Summer 2016 ForeWord Reviews cover 1 in

The Summer 2016 edition of ForeWord Reviews is on-line as of midnight. The Spotlight section on Climate Change, in which my book is featured, hasn’t been uploaded as yet although it is in the print version.

The full review of my book can be found in full at: https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/glorious-times/

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First Review for New Book

May 20, 2016

Summer 2016 ForeWord Reviews cover 1 in

The first review of my new book, which is to be released in late June, arrived in today’s mail. It received a prominent position on a Spotlight page but the last sentence and a half of the review were cut off. One would expect the entire review to be in the on-line version at ForeWordReviews. com when it is released.

 

 

 

 

 ForeWord Reviews

Summer Issue 2016

 Glorious Times: Adventures of the Craighead Naturalists

Tom Benjey

University of Montana Press

Softcover $16.95 (370pp)

978-0-1-9909748-7-1

In this genealogy of the Craighead family, the author explores the history and exploits of this famously nature-oriented clan.

The tale of the Craigheads begins with the dawn of the American colonies, but the book itself begins with the engaging tale of two Craighead brothers capturing and training hawks in Depression-era Pennsylvania. This story-oriented style typifies Glorious Times, which recounts the lives of the historical Craigheads in lively detail, bringing readers into close, personal proximity to the subjects’ lives. Roughly chronologically, the book describes each significant Craighead chapter by chapter, always highlighting their nature-loving and environmental points. Since the family’s story begins so early in American history, the book spends several chapters working through older relatives, who predated what modern activists would recognize as environmentalism, before getting to the generations that produced the more famous conservationists and natural scientists. However, the theme of the Craigheads as nature-lovers, hikers, campers, and outdoorspeople remains a powerful thread throughout the book. The author’s research on the topic could not be more meticulous, incorporating typical genealogical sources, such as newspapers, as well as personal interviews with Jean Craighead George and family documents, such as diaries.

Particularly valuable to book people may be the insight that Glorious Times provides into the mind and personality of Jean Craighead George, who is presented as at once more liberal and ambitious than other Craighead women and fully in step with her family’s environmentalist tradition. Fans and critics of her work and of the roots of the twentieth century environmental stewardship movement will find this work a fascinating insight. Genealogists may also be interested in the book as an example of a family history well executed.

ARCs Are Here

February 4, 2016

ARC front cover 150dpiAdvance Reading Copies (ARCs) for Glorious Times: Adventures of the Craighead Naturalists have arrived and I’ve sent copies to the important prepress reviewers. Reviews from some of them could assure significant orders from bookstores and libraries. Arriving just ahead of the ARCs was a huge increase in postal rates. Earlier this year, I could mail books in padded Priority envelopes anywhere in the U.S. for $5.75. Now it costs $6.80! That’s an increase of over a dollar for each potential reviewer. These costs assume postage is purchased on-line and that you print the label yourself on a large sticker. It costs more than this if you pay at the post office.

Regional A boxes, which must be ordered on-line and aren’t available at post offices just like padded envelopes, now cost $8.15, which must be paid on-line. Post Offices aren’t allowed to sell postage for them. They are a good size for larger books and can be used to hold a few smaller ones. So, they are handy for shipping books to individual buyers. However, they are not as sturdy as the Priority boxes available in the post office. So, additional packing material is needed to protect books shipped in them.

Writing books isn’t all about research and struggling to find the best words to use. It’s also about a lot of mundane things one wishes he never had to learn.

 

A Great Book Cover for $100

December 15, 2015

Glorious Times front cover lores zealousAs my book on the Craighead Naturalists inches toward publication, a cover is needed. Using a single photo for a background image wouldn’t work because the Craigheads are identified with so many things. A collage of several photos would be too cluttered. Original artwork is needed. The rub there is that I have no artistic talent whatsoever. References to a site named Fiverr.com piqued my interest. Each job (gig in Fiverr parlance) starts at $5 and goes up from there with addons, typically such things as higher resolution, commercial license, color, etc. After spending $31.50 (Fiverr charges a 50 cent commission, sometimes more, on each gig) on an unsuitable cover, I decided that going with the basic five dollar gig to see if the artist would likely generate something useful before purchasing any addons. Those can be bought later once you’ve decided the artist is the one you want to use. To speed up the process, I ordered basic gigs from three artists to see if any of them would likely create a useable cover design. Soon, I saw that a book cover designer wasn’t what I needed. Fiverr book cover designers do not usually create artwork for you, they use stock photos or artwork you provide.

After realizing it was artwork I needed, I looked at samples of art done by various artists, I selected one whose samples included one for Denali I especially liked and thought he’d be a good fit for creating something that says “Craighead.” In a few days, he sent me a back and with drawing that included a wolf and a hawk. Perfect. Except the drawing didn’t allow enough bleed area for trimming when used on a book cover. Unable to get across what I needed, I created the bleed area myself, which wasn’t too hard to do because the area that needed to be replicated was black. I gladly paid for the necessary addons and shifted my focus to overlaying the title, subtitle and author’s name onto the cover.

I experimented with various shades of green and came up with nothing useful. I went back to Fiverr book cover designers and tried a few five dollar gigs. All were duds but one. And it jumped off the page at me. He extended the black area at the bottom of the artwork an inch more than I had to allow space there for the author’s name. He put the first word of the title and the author’s name in a piercing red and the rest of the title and subtitle in black. His first choice of fonts and placement of the title and subtitle against the artwork didn’t work but, with a few adjustments, a cover I like immensely emerged. This experience taught me that, with some patience, even I can have a great looking front cover for a hundred dollars.

 

 

Artwork on Craighead House Kitchen Walls

June 20, 2015

This week I started a task that I’ve put off for a good while: cataloging the artwork drawn or painted directly on the plaster walls of the Craighead House kitchen. The task is so daunting I feared how difficult it would be because the walls are covered from chair rail to ceiling with pieces, large and small, distinct and overlapping, in a variety of media ranging from pencil to crayon to multiple types of paint. A drawing of a tree in the back yard and the railroad bridge even extends onto the ceiling. I devised a plan in which I would identify the wall (north south, east, or west), horizontal distance from its left corner, vertical distance from the ceiling down. I also logged a description of the art, the artist’s name, the date it was created, and the medium in which it was created. I’ll need help from an artist on the last one as I can only identify pencil with any accuracy.

On Thursday, with a test sheet in hand to test the method, I gave it a try, starting with the west wall. After an hour, I’d filled the first sheet and hadn’t recorded all the art left of the window and below eye level. I modified the form to include several more rows and gave it the old college try again on Friday. After two hours or so, with back aching, I finished the west wall. After filling the second sheet, I turned it over and filled its backside. Still not finished, I took out the first sheet and filled about a third of its whitespace. With back aching, I’d finished the west, the longest, wall (the east wall appears to have fewer drawings on it because it has both a door and a window cut out of it). Blow up the photo to see if you can identify pieces done by Jean Craighead George, her brothers, and father.

Typing the data into the computer will be the easy part; identifying the unsigned pieces will be a major challenge. So, I’ll be asking people to help by providing any information they may have about pieces they, their friends, or relatives may have drawn. Today, I attack the south wall on which Eugene Craighead started the project by painting rats running into the open chimney hole.

Contains early works by Jean Craighead George

West Wall of Craighead House Kitchen

 

 

Radio Interview

June 19, 2014

PHMC Historic Marker

Prior to the Historical Marker dedication, I was approached by WITF, the local PBS affiliate, for an interview concerning the book I am writing about the Craighead Naturalists. Cary Burkett, who has one of the best radio voices I’ve ever heard and whom I saw and heard sing The Impossible Dream in a local performance of The Man from LaMancha some years ago, met me at Craighead House the Monday before the Historical Marker dedication with recorder and microphone in hand.

He didn’t carry a heavy reel-to-reel tape recorder like the one Bob Wheeler lugged as he hitchhiked across the country interviewing people such as President Eisenhower for his biography of Jim Thorpe or the 40-pounder that left Howard Cossell stoop-shouldered. Burkett carried a tiny—relatively speaking—unit that was probably digital and could easily be slung from his shoulder. Recognizing me immediately from my photo, he introduced himself and began the interview.

Other than taking a couple of minutes to record the background sound of the Yellow Breeches flowing over the Craighead dam and into the mill race, he mostly listened to me recite facts, figures, and historical events related to the family for the better part of an hour. When I’d stop to breathe, he’d ask me another question and off I’d go babbling on and on about all manner of things Craighead related.

To make the interview more interesting, I gave Cary a tour of the home and grounds. Sadly, describing the artwork that adorns the kitchen walls is not easily done on radio and couldn’t be included in the seqment that resulted from interview. The 4-minute piece digested from this rambling interview airs tomorrow, Friday, June 20, 2014 at 6:35 a.m., 8:35 a.m., and 12:30 p.m. on WITF 89.5 fm. Mr. Burkett also wrote an accompanying article about the Craigheads that, along with a podcast of his radio piece, is posted on WITF’s site at:

http://www.witf.org/arts-culture/2014/06/historic-marker-for-craighead-house.php

 

Unexpected Falcon

June 15, 2014

Tom Swift falcon 150 dpi

Life bring a series of surprises, some pleasant, some otherwise. Yesterday’s dedication of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Historical Marker brought a most unexpected and beautiful surprise. I knew Chuck Heywood was coming to speak about distant Craighead cousins who were also interested in nature. I’d invited him, after all. What I didn’t expect was a gift. And what a gift it was.

Chuck presented a breathtakingly beautiful print of a hand-colored drawing of falcon done by the renowned neurologist, Dr. Tom Swift. I won’t bore you by listing his numerous accomplishments in various fields of endeavor; I will simply relate what his wife, Margaret, shared with Chuck about him, “I’m convinced Tom should be diagnosed with attention surplus disorder.” It sure would be nice to have that diagnosis.

Dr. Swift didn’t just donate a print we could hang on the wall to beautiful Craighead House; he donated ten of them to sell to raise money to preserve the house. The falcon he depicted isn’t any old falcon; it is a male hybrid cross between a European and American peregrine falcons Dr. Swift watched go through its paces at Awendaw Raptor Center north of Charleston, SC.

More information about the dedication can be found in The Sentinel article about the event: http://cumberlink.com/news/local/communities/carlisle/historical-marker-unveiled-at-craighead-house-in-south-middleton-township/article_f003d386-f441-11e3-9ac2-001a4bcf887a.html and on the Craighead House Facebook page and at www.CraigheadHouse.com.

Typesetting The Summer of the Falcon

May 31, 2014

A significant part of the work we do on Craighead House Committee toward preserving Craighead House at this stage involves finding ways to raise money to fund repairs and to pay off the mortgage. A recent task for me was to typeset a book, which required me to learn a little about typesetting. Jean Craighead George’s heirs graciously allowed Craighead House Committee to reprint The Summer of the Falcon, a book that was set in Craighead House in the 1930s. No professional typesetting agreed to donate his services, so it fell on me to get the job done. Not wanting to invest the substantial amount of money required to license Adode’s professional typesetting software, I studied Perfect Pages, a book by Aaron Shepard on typesetting with Microsoft Word, a word-processing program not intended for book production. Shepard convinced me that I could do a credible job with Word, especially for a relatively simple book to typeset.

I started off by sending an old copy of the book to be scanned into a text file to eliminate the extremely tedious job, especially so for a slow, error-prone typist, of typing the entire text. Scanning is an imperfect process. I had to correct numerous errors from the scanning process and an experienced proofreader donated fifty hours of her time finding the errors I missed and those I introduced. Through trial and error, I eventually got headers and footers to appear as they would appear on professionally-typeset books: on the bottoms of the first pages of chapters and on the tops of the rest of the pages, except those that only contained photos, which have neither headers or footers. I scanned Jean’s drawing from a book and cleaned up spots introduced by the scanning process. I placed her drawings at the beginnings of chapters as she had done decades ago. I also included photos given me by family members to illustrate sections of the text.

I used a 1933 group photo of the Craigheads for the cover because, although classified as fiction, the book is autobiographical in nature and the characters are thinly-disguised versions of family members. To assist readers, I created a cross-reference that tied characters to real-life names to images on the cover and inserted it as a frontispiece. The finished books arrived from the printer this week. Readers have especially appreciated this key to the characters in the book.

I closed the book out with reflections on the house and family that were written by friends and family members. These musings summarize what the people and place meant to those writing them. At $10 a copy, this book is quite a bargain and can be purchased at www.CraigheadHouse.org.

Front cover

Craigheads Owned Slaves? (part 3 of 3)

May 12, 2014

Not overly confident that my analysis would convince readers that I’d broken the code, so to speak, of the 1800 Federal Census, I contacted Ancestry.com. After waiting on hold a good while, a youngish, by the sound of her voice, native speaker of American English took my call. She was quite pleasant and seemed knowledgeable about Ancestry.com’s service—more knowledgeable than I am about my own account. Because I sign in with my email address and password, I didn’t know my account ID. Fortunately, it displays on the upper right corner of the screen. She reviewed my account then asked about my problem.

Since my problem was related to a specific record, all I had to do was to tell her what search criteria I had used and which record I had retrieved. Soon, she had Thomas Craighead’s 1800 Federal Census record on her screen and was able to verify that Ancestry.com had indeed determined that he had three slaves. When she looked at the original record, she immediately saw my problem and went about the analysis I described in the previous post. She arrived at the same conclusion about the numbers of slaves owned but could not find a key to use to decipher the log either. She contacted her technical support but to no avail. Ancestry.com does not know, or isn’t sharing, how exactly they transcribed handwritten and coded census reports into searchable digital form. The only way I can imagine it was done was by doing it manually one person at a time. Someone had to read the census pages, determine how names were spelled and how many people of each category lived at the address, then key it into a database. Errors were made as illustrated previously with Alenander Carothers. This was far from the first time I couldn’t retrieve a record via search that I knew should be available or, as in this case, had already seen along with the result for a different search.

The next step is to contact the National Archives. I’ll get back to you when, if ever, they tell me anything. Here is a link to a search: http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7590&enc=1

 

Craigheads Owned Slaves? (part two)

May 10, 2014

Before I make the claim that some Pennsylvania Craigheads, particularly those who were ancestors of the Craighead Naturalists, once owned slaves, I should be absolutely certain it is true. The first thing to do was to look at the actual census documents to make sure Ancestry.com had the right census page and had interpreted it correctly. I quickly found the 1800 Federal Census page for Thomas Craighead. That page not only included him but his son Thomas Jr. as well as some neighboring farmers. (See below) Deciphering the census page was, and remains, a challenge. The page appears to have been hand drawn in a ledger book. Column headings, such as they are, are not obvious. From Ancestry.com’s analysis and comments from the National Archives, I imputed the first five columns that contained numbers represented free white males in five different age brackets. The second five numeric columns represent the number of free white females in five different age brackets living on the property. The eleventh and twelfth numeric columns, the rightmost columns on the page, had no entries and contained few entries. Thomas Craighead Sr. had nothing in his eleventh column and three is his twelfth column. Alex Carothers has one in his eleventh column and Daniel Holmes has ones in both columns. No one else on the page has an entry in either column.

Verifying how the entries in the eleventh and twelfth columns were determined to represent slaves posed a significant problem. Ancestry.com listed Daniel Homes has having one slaves and one other (non-white?) free person in addition to all the free whites living at his home. Alex Carothers was more of a problem. Several searches involving several spellings were required to receive his record as Ancestry.com interpreted his name as being spelled Corathers. That he had one other free person living at his home and a one in column eleven supports the conclusion that column eleven contains the number of free whites and column twelve contains the number of slaves. Non-citizen Indians were not counted because they were enumerated on their tribal rolls, at least in theory.

The next piece of the puzzle was contacting Ancestry.com to find out how they converted these handwritten ledgers into searchable text.

1800 Fed Census Thomas Craighead 3 slaves

<end of part 2>